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Bible Commentaries

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible

Acts 21

 

 

Verses 1-40

CHAPTER 21

1. The journey from Miletus to Tyre and Ptolemais (Acts 21:1-7).

2. In Caesarea (Acts 21:8-14).

3. The Apostle’s Arrival in Jerusalem and his visit to the Temple (Acts 21:15-26).

4. The Uproar in the Temple. Paul taken prisoner (Acts 21:27-40).

Coos, Rhodes and Patara are mentioned. Then they sailed over to Phenicia and landed in Tyre. Here they found disciples.

And the Holy Spirit through these disciples warned the Apostle at once that he should not go to Jerusalem. This, indeed, was very solemn. If these disciples had spoken of themselves, if it said that they were in anxiety over Paul’s journey to that city, one might say that they were simply speaking as men; but the record makes it clear that the Holy Spirit spoke through them. Could then the Apostle Paul have been under the guidance of that same Spirit in going to Jerusalem? As stated before, the great love for his brethren, his kinsmen, burned in his heart, and so great was his desire to be in Jerusalem that he ignored the voice of the Spirit.

In Caesarea they were the guests of Philip the evangelist. Here Agabus, who had given a prediction of a great dearth years ago (11:28) comes once more upon the scene. When he had come he took Paul’s girdle and with it bound his own hands and feet, and then he said: “Thus saith the Holy Spirit, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.” Here then another warning was given. It was the last and by far the strongest. Did Agabus really speak by the Spirit? The literal fulfillment of his predictive action furnishes the answer. The whole company, both his fellow travelers and the believers in Caesarea, began to beseech him not to go up to Jerusalem.

Then they reached Jerusalem. On the next day the company paid a visit to James, in whose house all the elders had assembled for the purpose of meeting with Paul and his friends. And now once more the Apostle relates what no doubt was dearest to the hearts of James and the elders, what God had wrought through His God-given ministry among the Gentiles. It must have been a very lengthy account; for he rehearsed particularly, “or one by one,” the things which had happened in His great activity. After Paul had spoken, “they glorified God.”

All had progressed nicely up to this point. But now the great crisis is rapidly reached. The meeting had been called in the house of James, and only the elders had been invited for a very good reason. Reports had reached Jerusalem that Paul had taught the Jews among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, and even to deny children the covenant sign, circumcision. Most likely the Judaizing element in the assembly of Jerusalem, the men who were so successfully overcome by the bold arguments of the Apostle at the council in Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-41. Galatians 2:1-21), the men who so strenuously taught, that unless the Gentiles became circumcised, they could not be saved--these men were responsible for the rumors. What could be done to convince the multitude that all this was incorrect, that Paul after all was a good Jew?

The elders suggest to him that there were four men who had a vow on them. These he should take and purify himself with them as well as pay the charges. This action, they reasoned, would not only demonstrate that the reports were untrue, but that he, the Apostle of Gentiles, “walketh orderly and keepeth the law.” To make this temptation stronger, they restated that which had been agreed concerning the status of the believing Gentiles, according to the decision of the church council years ago. All was a most subtle snare. He was by that action to show that, with all his preaching to the Gentiles, he was still a good Jew, faithful to all the traditions of the fathers, and attached to the temple.

And a strange sight it is to see the Apostle Paul back in the temple, going through these dead ceremonies, which had been ended by the death of the cross. A strange sight to see him, who disclaimed all earthly authority and taught deliverance from the Law and a union with an unseen Christ, submitting once more to the elementary things, as he calls them in his Epistle to the Galatians,”the beggarly elements!” And has not the whole professing church fallen into the same snare?

His arrest followed and he is taken prisoner. A great tumult followed. They would have killed him if the chief captain had not rescued him. He then was bound with two chains. Agabus’ prophecy is fulfilled.

Paul gives the Roman officer his pedigree. “I am a man, a Jew of Tarsus,” and then requests the privilege of addressing the furious mob. This was permitted, and taking a prominent place on the stairs, where he could be seen by all below, and when after beckoning to the people, silence had been secured, he addressed them in Hebrew. The break of the chapter at this point is unfortunate. The next chapter contains the first address of defense of the prisoner Paul.

 


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Bibliography Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Acts 21:4". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/gab/acts-21.html. 1913-1922.

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